This post was originally published in May 2018. –ed.
Years ago, a mundane event turned into one of the more interesting and memorable moments of my life. I was flying from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, to speak at a men’s conference. I was seated in the dreaded middle seat, slowly progressing toward El Paso. The man in the window seat next to me was a Muslim from the Middle East. His presence was distinguished and palpable—he was in traditional dress and had a quiet demeanor. About thirty minutes into the flight, he looked over at me. I had my Bible out and was writing a few notes. He said, “Excuse me, sir. May I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I said, and he asked, “Is that a Bible?”
“Yes, it is a Bible.”
“Oh,” he replied, “Sir, can I ask you then another question?”
“Of course,” I said.
He said, “Can you tell me the difference between a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Baptist?”
That was not at all what I was expecting him to ask, but I was happy to oblige. And after I explained the difference between Catholics, Protestants, and Baptists, I said to him, “Now may I ask you a question?”
“Of course, of course,” he said.
We were already talking about the nature of the gospel, but I wanted to bring the issue to his spiritual doorstep. I asked him, “Do Muslims sin?”
“Oh, yes. We have many, many sins.”
Testing his self-awareness, I asked, “Well, do you commit them all the time?”
The honesty of his answer still stuns me. He said, “Yes. In fact, I am flying to El Paso to commit some sins.”
“Really?” I said, somewhat surprised.
“Yes. I have just immigrated into the U.S. I came through the El Paso immigration center, and I met a girl there. We have arranged to meet this weekend to commit some sins.”
Since he was comfortable with blunt honesty, I said, “May I ask you another question? How does Allah feel about your sins?”
I had clearly found a sore spot. “Ah,” he groaned, “it’s very bad. I could go to hell forever.”
“Really? Why don’t you stop doing those sins?”
“I can’t stop,” he said.
I prodded a little further. “Do you have any hope that in spite of your sins, you might escape hell?”
I’ll never forget what he said next. “I pray Allah will forgive me.”
“Well, why would he do that?”
Somewhat hopelessly, he said, “I don’t know. I just pray he will.”
Here was the opportunity I had been pressing for. I said, “Well, let me tell you something. I know God personally, and I can promise you, He won’t.”
He looked at me like I was crazy, as if to say, You know God personally, and you’re in the middle seat on Southwest? You’ve got to be kidding me. I was determined to push past his visible incredulity. “I know the one true God personally, and He cannot overlook your sin.”
“But,” I said, “I have some good news for you. There is forgiveness available. There is a way to be reconciled with God.” And I went on to present the gospel to him.
That’s what I do—I tell people how to be reconciled to God. It’s my job; it’s my life. And it’s yours, too, if you’ve been reconciled to God through Christ. That’s what Christians do—it’s our primary function. We preach the forgiveness of sins and redemption by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Paul speaks about the responsibility that we have as believers to proclaim the message of forgiveness—the message of reconciliation. And that’s the pivotal word we’ll carefully examine in the days ahead.
(Adapted from Good News)